The T.H. Everett Alpine House at Wave Hill, a public garden in Bronx, New York, is home to a unique collection of small high-altitude and rock-garden plants arranged in a special greenhouse for year-round viewing. Today, Martha visits with John Emmanuel, gardener at the Alpine House, to learn about the world of alpine plants.
Despite their name, not all alpine plants grow at high altitudes. Commonly called rock-garden plants, alpines are small plants that grow in a tight, clumpy form, and thrive in rocky areas with coarse, sandy soil and direct sunlight. Some of these plants originate in warmer climates; others are considered "true" alpines, growing in "scree" -- cracks and crevices on rocky mountain slopes. In all their varieties, alpines are ideal for people who don't have the space for a full garden, as their small forms make them well-suited for a patio or windowsill.
At Wave Hill, the plants in the Alpine House are kept in raised, deep beds filled with coarse sand and rocks; an undulating landscape inspired by the natural environment of the plants. The sand keeps the temperature constant, encourages rooting, and, most important, allows for good drainage -- essential for the survival of alpines.
Teucrium: The small species of this common herbaceous perennial have a compact growth habit and are well-suited to rock gardens or raised beds.
Fuchsia procumbens: A shrub with a prostrate growth habit and tiny, upright flowers; suited for rock gardens in milder climates.
Draba: A mound-forming evergreen or semi-evergreen perennial; considered a true alpine, draba grows naturally in high-altitude scree.
Dianthus: The rock garden subgroup of this common garden plant adapts well to an alpine house environment and has a tight, mound-forming growth habit when its flowers are kept cut back. Silvery-gray foliage.
For more information about the T.H. Everett Alpine House, visit wavehill.org.